Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Getting Started: My first post

A little background:

Last October, I stumbled upon my first blog when I discovered Robin Cicchetti's Concord Carlisle High School library blog. Her words inspired me to set up my own RSS feed, and begin exploring the edu-blogosphere. I've been a blogging voyeur ever since. This summer, Patrick Larkin, @bhs principal on twitter, reached out to MA administrators to expand his own PLN. He showed me how to join twitter and I decided it's time to join the conversation, instead of just observing from afar.

What's this blog about:

I intend for this space to be a place for me to reflect, discuss, learn and struggle. I am both a district leader and a member of a campus team. We have six distinct high schools on our campus of schools. Each school has their own building, administrative team, staff and 500+ students. I'm leading efforts to try and change teaching and learning on campus from a traditional comprehensive high school model to something distinctly new. I must lead, but also follow because each principal and each school has their own voice, and their own ideas about how these schools should develop. What we become must be collaborative for it to be successful.

Fundamentally, I believe that high school, as it has been traditionally structured just doesn't work. In my experience, the comprehensive high school model certainly doesn't work for urban students who, in many cases, will be the first person in their family to graduate from high school or go to college. I used to use terms like "reform", "restructure", and "reinvent". But I no longer believe these words apply to what we're trying to do.

The title of this blog, "Growing Good Schools" refers to the slow, nurturing process that is required to grow anything successfully. Now full disclosure, last summer my wife and I managed to grow a tomato. That's one tomato for the entire year, so growing anything isn't necessarily the analogy I should be using. But I've learned that changing urban schools is like nurturing a garden. We certainly have successes, but we don't see obvious progress daily. I believe that growth in the garden doesn't happen overnight, and I know it doesn't happen overnight in schools either. This blog will hopefully be a place for me to discuss how our growth is going.

Moving Forward:

I've been trying to exercise regularly this summer. I managed to ride 180+ miles in July, but most of it was on a rail trail that passes through my town. This weekend I decided to take a 15 mile loop out on the roads. About three miles in, I realized my heart was pounding. It wasn't because I was out of breath, or tired. Instead, I realized I was scared. I knew that several miles ahead was a massive hill, and I wasn't sure I could climb it. Initially, I decided to turn around and head back on the more comfortable path. But then I thought about all the #leadershipday10 posts I read this weekend. Teachers from around the country called for administrators to lead, to try new edtech tools, to open up blocked sites, and let good innovative learning occur. I thought about all the times I have asked teachers to change something about their practice, and step out of their comfort zone, and I knew avoiding the hill was out of the question. I climbed it, thought I would die, cursed it mercilessly, and with a little walking, succeeded.

I was scared to climb the hill and I've been scared to enter the conversations I'm reading in blogs and on twitter. But growing good schools requires stepping out of our comfort zones and making changes. If I plan to lead, I'd better be willing to be in the discussion. So with that in mind, I'm hitting the publish post button and I'm headed out towards that hill on my bike.


  1. Hi Eric,

    Good for you to start a blog! I must warn you, a blog is a very personal and lonely place, but it's a great way to keep track of the lessons you have learned over time.

    Over time, I have written around 50 posts, and some of them I have used over and over again as conversation starters during conferences or with colleagues. Yes, it's scary to think out loud on the public space, but it's also a way to help you and your colleagues step out of the comfort zone.

    Best of luck in your endeavors!

    Mathieu Plourde

  2. Eric - I love your analogy to tending a garden. Growing good schools is definitely a similar enterprise with the work that we must put in daily. In regards to being overwhelmed, I think that is a good thing. One of my favorite quotes from Will Richardson refers to the fact that if you are an educator and you are not overwhelmed at this point then there is something wrong with you.

    Looking forward to following your blog!


  3. Eric, I loved reading your first post, and admire any administrator willing to have the courage to step forward and engage the struggle in a more transparent fashion, partnering with others. You work in such a huge district, I can't imagine the challenges just in terms of building relationships. But I'm sure there are key people you can invest in and help share your vision for moving forward and help them enter the discussion. I appreciate Patrick's quote of Will Richardson, because I feel a bit overwhelmed with the rapid pace of change. I think the PLN concept has helped curb some of the anxiety, knowing we're in it together. Best wishes...and as a friend of mine tells me, "Fight the good fight and keep your eye on the prize."